It’s October once again! Finally! It’s our favorite time of year, a time where we can drown in horror and genre cinema without coming up for air. For the return of “Shorts Round Up of the Week” I bring you the Halloween edition, where I review short films of the horror, thriller, and dark fantasy variety. Hopefully we can dig up a second edition of this column before the month is up.
If you’d like to submit your short film for review consideration, submissions are always opened to filmmakers and producers.
Happy October, boils and ghouls.
The Blue Door (2017)
I’m not entirely sure how they’re going to fit this premise in to a feature film, but “The Blue Door” is soon to become a major film from Amblin very soon. On its own, “The Blue Door” is a creepy and bizarre horror tale packed with a startling surprise ending. Gemma Whelan plays an in-home nurse who arrives at the home of her new patient (Janie Booth), a catatonic woman. While performing her normal duties, she notices an odd blue door that keeps appearing everywhere she goes. And something is trying to get in. Or get out. Paul Taylor’s horror film is mostly a silent chiller with a great hook and a wonderful final scene. I’m not sure what is behind that door, and the suspense relies on the audience simply not wanting to know. In either case, it’s a great short.
Dacryphilia + Hematolagnia (2019)
Director Shane Ryan has managed to deliver some skillfully composed and entertaining shorts and features over the span of his career, but “Dacryphilia + Hematolagnia” isn’t one of his best. Ryan has evolved as a filmmaker and storytelling, but his short feels like a weird film student project. It’s supposed to touch on the idea of fetishizing in these weird forms of savage arousal, but nothing ever feels remotely coherent or even watchable. I’d love to see Ryan build a feature that confronts these taboo fetishes with more interesting narratives. Flashing images and sex meant to shock doesn’t always prove to be effective, just kind of desperate. I’m a fan of Shane Ryan, I did not enjoy this.
The Dollmaker (2019)
Presented by Alter, “The Dollmaker” by Al Lougher is a fantastic and heartbreaking tale about grief and how what’s dead should stay dead. There’s always the adage that what doesn’t kill us can make us stronger, but sometimes we merely can’t go on. After losing their son, a mother and father pay a mysterious doll maker to create a doll of their son. The doll is stunningly life like but can eventually take hold of you. There’s only one rule: You can only interact with the doll for an hour at a time. If you break the guideline, then who knows what could happen? “The Dollmaker” uses the sadness and tragedy of death as a means of introducing this pure seductive evil who relies on sadness for profit. For a ten minute film, director Lougher packs in some interesting surprises, including the gripping finale. I loved it and I hope Lougher can impress me again. “The Dollmaker” is now available to stream both on Alter’s Facebook and its Youtube channel.
A Father’s Day (2016)
Mat Johns’ short horror drama is a bit cutesy at times, but nevertheless has a great message about unconditional love. Set during a zombie apocalypse, a male zombie manages to re-connect with his daughter who is also one of the walking dead. As the two disfigured corpses spend their day re-connecting in ways only zombies can, they’re confronted with a new obstacle. “A Father’s Day” is well filmed, with some great make up and fantastic gore that helps build the world we’re in, in such a short period. This is quite the crowd pleaser if you’re in to something different and sweet.
Part of Hulu’s popular Huluween Film Fest, “Flagged” is one of seven new shorts from seven up-and-coming filmmakers, and is curated in partnership with the Sundance Film Institute. “Flagged” from Chelsea Lupkin is a short but sweet chiller that takes technology to the forefront of the horror and creates a healthy bit of ambiguity as well. Forced to take a nine to five for her boyfriend, Mila signs on as a comment moderator for a giant online video website. When she begins exploring various videos, she stumbles on to a video of someone being viciously murdered by an axe killer. Then things get even more frightening than she ever imagined. The tension and pacing are fantastic and director/writer Lupkin manages to really pull audiences in with the creepy narrative while delivering a real gut punch of a finale. I hope we can see more from Chelsea Lupkin very soon, as “Flagged” is a great Halloween treat.
By filmmaker Jimmy Dean and writer/producer Ellie Gocher, “V” is less the traditional vampire film and more that explores what led up to the vampirism and why this case is particularly different. Especially once we begin to delve in to the life of vampire Minnie. Synnøve Karlsen is excellent as Minnie, a young girl that wiles her day away on various hobbies and takes us in to her world where she lives life not like the stereotypical vampire we’re all used to. Much of the gore is more implied than anything else, but “V” gets its point across beautifully. The final shot indicates a lot about social overtones and how it contributes to Minnie’s environment and current state. “V” is brilliant I hope people can check it out with an open mind.